For My Auntie Sis On Her 80th Birthday

Today is a very special day in my family for it marks the 80t Birthday of my Auntie Sis.

I wish with all my heart that each and every one of you could have the chance to sit across from Auntie Sis and enjoy a cup of tea. I am certain that if you did, you would be enchanted by her kind voice, her sweet smile, and the sparkle in her eye.

My Auntie Sis is special, not just because she taught Kindergarten for 30 years, or because she was married to my Uncle Andy for 50 years, or because she filled my childhood with memories of trips to her house where we ate Runzas, enjoyed tea parties and played dress-up for hours on end.

No, my Auntie Sis is special for all these things, but most importantly she is special because of the testimony she is to me and countless others. The faith and joy that she has in Jesus is rare and contagious. Indeed, she is a lighthouse, that beams a ray of God and His love onto all that she does and every one she is with.

I am fortunate to have many Godly role models in my life, and Auntie Sis is one of them. I am blessed to be her niece, and I am blessed to have her sweet and enduring presence in my life.

In honor of my Auntie Sis and her 80th Birthday, I have written a poem. I will be the first to admit that I am no poet, but each year at Christmas time, Auntie Sis sends out a Christmas Poem to recap her year and tell the world of the ways that God has blessed her.

Auntie Sis, this poem is my attempt to follow suit, but my hope is to not just follow in your poetic footsteps, but most importantly, in the way that you have lived your life. Thank you for being such a shining example to me of what it means to follow Christ.

For My Auntie Sis On Her 80th Birthday

Long ago in a southern land

A child was born named Margaret Ann


Her parents with love did Miss Margaret raise

And Bubba, Jeanne, and Martie sang her their praise


But her childhood was hard and riddled with strife

As she battled with illness and the loss of Bubba’s dear life


Despite the difficulties sweet Margaret faced

Her faith in God could not be replaced


Margaret knew where her treasures were stored

And counted each one in the love of her Lord


In time Margaret grew and went off to school

With her dear sister Jeanne to BJU


As she worked and studied she found two loves quite handy

One love for teaching and one love for Andy


In June of 56’ Andy and Margaret were wed

Right next to Ron and Jeanne their vows were pledged


After a few years down south Andy took Margaret away

To the state of Nebraska, and there they would stay


In time Andy and Margaret grew to a family of four

With two loving daughters that made their hearts soar


First came Sandy from God’s faithful hand

And then along came Becky to further His plan


As a wife and a mother Margaret’s heart swelled

As a teacher of Kindergarten she greatly excelled


For 30 years Margaret devoted her heart

To helping young children get the very best start


In no time at all Margaret again was blessed

With son-in-laws and granddaughters that filled up her nest


Through thick and thin Dan and Keith have showed their devotion

And Lexi, Brooke, Tiffany, and Jessica, have grown Margaret’s love as wide as the ocean


In 2006 Andy and Margaret looked back over their years

And celebrated their Golden Anniversary with smiles and tears


Then on the saddest of days, Andy left Margaret Ann

And joined our dear Lord in the Heavenly Lands


Even in sorrow, Margaret’s praise wasn’t quenched

With joy found in Jesus and Andy’s new life, her faith didn’t budge not one single inch


And now here we are on this day of all days

To celebrate Margaret in the most special of ways


My dear Auntie Sis, I love you so much

And I hope that this poem your dear heart has touched


You are a jewel, a gem, a pearl

And I, your niece, am the luckiest of girls


For in you I find an example of strength,

A legacy of love, a monument of faith


May your day be blessed with love from the start

Happy Birthday, dear Aunt, I love you, I love you with all of my heart

Her Own Voice (A Message from Cara)

Suti SanaA few weeks ago I received a letter in the mail from my dear friend, Cara. Cara and her husband Mache live and work in Bolivia as missionaries with Word Made Flesh. Cara in particular works with a ministry called Suti Sana. Through this incredible ministry, Cara works to build relationships with women who are seeking to escape a life of prostitution. The Suti Sana ministry provides housing and resources to rehabilitate these women, give them hope, and show them the goodness, grace, and power of God’s love in their lives.


All of Cara’s letters are beautiful and ring with truth and love. When I read the story of Eliana, I knew this letter must be shared. I asked Cara for permission and graciously she agreed. If you would like more information on Cara or the ministry of Suti Sana please visit

 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34

I’ve told you the story of Eliana before.

I met my friend Eliana decades after she had been trafficked from Argentina.  When we first met on my internship, she would lecture me on how to mop the stairs in the Casa de Esperanza.  I was a little scared of her harsh instructions at first.  The scars on her neck and arms spoke of a life I could never really understand, but they quickly became simply part of the familiar contours of a friend.  And as she began to trust that I wasn’t going anywhere, she started to joke and laugh and dance with me.

Eliana means “God has answered me.”  She chose that name a few months after I moved to Bolivia, and I struggled to remember not to call her Marta.  One of the first songs I learned in Spanish was her favorite worship song, “La Niña de Sus Ojos.”  When she was dunked into the baptismal waters in a small tub at her church, I cried with joy. 

While transitioning housing once, Eliana lived with me for a few months.  We would trade off cooking for each other, and I would hear her get up to pray at 5 every morning.  We would wash our laundry together by hand on the porch, and she patiently taught me how to wax my wooden floors, a chore I loath to this day.

Eliana’s journey of healing manifested itself in beautifully random ways.  She once roped all of the staff into painting her rented room a vibrant lilac purple.  Her addiction to potted plants has slowly transformed the Casa de Esperanza into an oasis in the urban desert of El Alto.

Being the first woman who left prostitution to join our community, our sweet friend has undergone an astonishing transformation.  But for the past few years, Eliana has been restless in our ministry.  She had a multitude of ideas for her place in ministry which we tried to honor, but without fully realizing it we were patronizing her.  She wanted her to spread her wings and do things on her own, but we kept trying to protect her. 

Eliana has been our poster girl.  She’s the one we point to with pride, and proclaim joyfully, “Look what God did in her life.”  She’s our shining success story.  She’s the reason we stay.  She gives us energy to keep going.

But she’s more than that.  So.  Much.  More.  She’s not just an anecdote.  She’s not just a prayer letter.  She’s no longer the story of her past.  She is no longer a victim.  Eliana is a woman who wants to live her life guided by God, but not over-protected or herded along by other people, even well-meaning friends who think they know what’s best for her. 

So a few months ago, Eliana quit her job with Word Made Flesh Bolivia.  We were all shocked and devastated, and for a few weeks we swung wildly from trying to give Eliana her space (“She’ll come back to us in her own time), to trying to convince her that she was making the wrong decision (“What will she do without us?”).

But she didn’t come back. 

She would call us to update us on her life, accept invitations to dinner, and stop by after work.  But she didn’t come running home with her tail between her legs.  I think we thought she would. 

One Sunday before we left for the States, Eliana came over to our apartment for dinner.  She was dressed to impress, and she proudly told us about the jobs she had gotten on her own, the apartment she had found on her own, and the life she was living, without our help.  I began to realize that in my deep love for this woman I should have encouraged her to venture out of the protective bubble of community to continue her healing.  I should have helped her fly!

But instead, I thought I could best love her by keeping her close.  On her path to healing I had sometimes run ahead and tried to haul away the fallen trees, scare the wild animals away, and hand her a flashlight for the dark parts.  It was hard for me to see that maybe she needed to face those demons alone, and that maybe she was ready.

My original dream for Suti Sana was to create a workplace where the women could stay and heal and grow forever.  I pictured them being with us until they retired, and then caring for them even after that.  I saw absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be in community with us until the end of their lives, or ours.

Eliana is helping me see things differently.  Once again, she is paving the way.  Through her I see that, sometimes, the last step of healing might mean allowing the Shepherd to lead her on alone, even if that means walking away from us.  And while Eliana will always be practically a part of my family, hers is no longer my story to tell.  She is telling her story in her own voice.


It’s noon on a Tuesday.

My three-year-old, Aletheia is having one of those days, the kind in which she is dead set on getting into EVERYTHING. A string of messes trails in her wake.

And my 16 month old, Tenley, is in the mood to cry her special brand of siren tears. The kind that would make any alarm system in the neighborhood stop and take notice.

So what do I do? I text my sister: Can you please tell me the name of that album you had on your Nook. The one with the soft strings of piano music. I need something to calm me quick!

In the midst of sending this text, The Still Small Voice captures my attention. “Why, do you turn to music, when you should be turning to me? Why not let me make you calm?”

My sister sends a text back: Whisperings by David Nevue…and I totally understand!

I brush The Still Small Voice aside and gather my girls to the table. As we start to down our food I fiddle with my phone, searching ITunes for my album of choice. My signal is weak and everything seems to take forever to load, making my search for calm feel more like a joke than an actual solution.

The Still Small Voice continues to whisper, offering me the peace I seek. I put down my phone. “Girls,” I say. “Why don’t we pray?”

I take Aletheia’s hand in mine and turn to God to find my calm. As I pray, Aletheia bends her golden head to my hand and starts to give me kisses. She kisses me, the entire time I pray.

Humble tears begin to form. The kissing so undeserved.

“Lord,” I pray. “Forgive me for the mother I’ve been today. The yelling, the short temper, the impatience, I’ve shown. Please, Lord, help me. Calm my frazzled spirit. Help me to be the mother to these precious girls that you intend for me to be. Help me to love them, Lord. Please lend me your peace, your grace, your patience, your love.”

I say, “Amen,” and Aletheia folds me into a hug. “It’s okay, mommy,” she says and wraps me tight in her arms too precious, too accepting for words.

I look to Tenley, who smiles wide. Her toothy grin speaks love all her own.

My mother’s heart swells happy. Calm.

This week in the pre-school curriculum I am teaching Aletheia, we’re learning Proverbs 18:10.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe.”

I love these words. I need these words. Especially on days like today.

How often do we run to other things when our days come on a bit too strong? In search of peace, in search of calm, in search of safety from the storm, we run swift into music, coffee, food, whatever dispels reality and bypass God, our strong tower, who longs to make us safe.

For me, music can be an awesome and helpful mood changer, but it can never make me safe. Of course God can use any and all of these things to encourage, romance, and bolster our hearts, but only when we run to find Him first.

No matter what kind of day you’re having, no matter what string of messes trails in your wake, the name of the Lord is YOUR strong tower. RUN to Him. Be SAFE.

Language of Love

This post is for my mom.

Four years ago, during a turbulent season of life, my husband and I moved home to our native state of Michigan.  A shelter from life’s storm, my mom and dad were ready and waiting to open their home to us. Fast forward four years, and here we are, still in Michigan, still under one roof with my mom and dad.

Many people look at our situation and wonder how we make it work. God’s grace is definitely part of the equation, but we are also blessed to have a solid and loving relationship with one another. We respect my parents, they respect us, and our girls adore growing up with not just mom and dad but Nannie and Papa too.

For the most part our unique family life runs smoothly, but there are times when stress burdens, pressure piles high, and life spins wild.

It is in these times, that my mom and I have a tendency to clash. This isn’t anything new. My mom and I have lived with these cycles throughout my entire life, but lately, I’ve noticed a spirit of frustration and, impatience in my own heart and mind, that doesn’t seem normal and needs to be dealt with.

I recently had lunch with a friend of mine. A Godly woman, full of wisdom, my friend is in a similar situation only, in her case, she is the mom with a grown daughter living in her home. After listening to a few details about my struggle and concerns she asked me a brilliant question: “What would you say is your mom’s love language?”

It’s a question I never considered before. I think a lot about my husband’s love language, and even that of my girls, but as far as my mom is concerned, I’ve never even asked.

For anyone not familiar with the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, the Five Love Languages include: Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch and Quality Time. According to Chapman, everyone has a love language(s) which determines their natural bent for giving and receiving love.

When I stopped to consider my mom and what her love language might be, I pictured her at home on a typical afternoon.  In my mind’s eye I could see her cooking supper, doing laundry, mopping the floor…it wasn’t hard to come to the conclusion that my mom gives love by serving our family. Her love language is Acts of Service. She’s wired for work, and this is how she communicates love.

Here’s the thing, Acts of Service is soooooo NOT my love language! I’m Quality Time to my core. Suddenly I knew, with the wise words of my friend, that herein lies my problem.

When I feel frustrated and impatient with my mom, what I really want to tell her is, “Stop! Slow down! Take a break! I don’t want muffins for breakfast, or sparkling clean floors, or even clean laundry, what I want is you. I want you to spending time with me and my girls. I want you to be happy and peaceful.”

This is what I want to tell her because I’m viewing her through a heart that is seeking quality time with my mom. What I view as work, work, work is my mom’s way of showing love to our family. When I look at her through the eyes of her love language I understand her heart, and I see the love that is there in her work.

Gaining understanding of my mom and her particular love language doesn’t only help me see how she gives love to our family, but also how I can show love to her. Things like vacuuming the living room or shopping for groceries are things I take for granted, but when I do these things for my mom I’m not just doing household chores, I’m speaking to her heart.

We all have people in our lives that we love but sometimes don’t understand. Do you know what your mother’s love language is? How about your son’s, your daughter’s, your best friend’s? February is a month set aside for giving and receiving love. Why not celebrate this month of love by learning a new language? The sweet and life-giving language of love.

Thank you, mom, for all you do to speak a language of love into the lives of our family and so many others. Love is the only language you know. Chris, Aletheia, Tenley and I are blessed to have you speak love into our lives each and every day. Happy Birthday, you make everything beautiful and I love you.

Filling In The Blanks

I know that for many of you Christmas has been over for a solid month, but for me, Christmas did not end until the last weekend of January.

Due to a new position at my brother-in-law’s workplace, my sister and her family were not able to make the 872 mile drive from their home in North Carolina to Michigan in time for Christmas this year. We all agreed that we would wait as long as necessary to celebrate the season if that’s what it took for us to be together.

“We’ll leave up the decorations until July if we need to,” I assured my sister. “Just. Get. Here!”

Finally, they made it, and for a full week we each drank deep from the glass of Christmas, be it ever so late, and family.

When they packed up their van and rolled out of our driveway, headed home to the sunny south, my heart began to ache.  I don’t know when I’ll see them again, and this unwanted question mark made saying goodbye especially hard.

Later, as my daughter and I sat at the kitchen table eating lunch, the quiet of the house consumed us. There we sat with room to spare, when just hours before, the table and the house had been full.

“Mommy,” said Aletheia. “I’m sad. I miss my cousins.”

“I miss them too.”

At three years of age, I know it’s hard for Alethiea to understand why she can’t see her cousins more often. I know how my heart felt in that moment and I could tell that hers felt the same way. How could I help her understand and sort through the hard feelings that come with saying goodbye?

“Aletheia?” I asked. “Do you know why you feel the way you do? Do you know why you miss your cousins?”

Her blue eyes, sad, spoke the words her mind couldn’t muster.

The reason you feel sad is because you have five big holes inside your heart. One in the shape of Madeline. One in the shape of Conner, and one in the shape of Garrett, Aunt Melanie, and Uncle Landon too.”

“Yes,” she said with her tiny voice.

“And, do you know what else? I bet that Madeline, Conner, Garrett, Aunt Melanie, and Uncle Landon have some holes in their hearts too, except theirs are in the shape of Aletheia and Tenley.”

Aletheia nodded and we went back to our lunch, to our getting back to normal.

As my girls took their afternoon naps, I retreated to my room in search of my own sense of comfort for the holes that ached inside.

It’s a feeling I’m sure we can all relate to. At the end of something great, on the tail of goodbye, the sinking feeling of empty that is left in the wake of what I like to call days of heaven upon the earth. In time the ache goes away, but what to do with those moments when reality crashes hard?

Stretched across my bed, I pulled out my phone and opened my email. A week’s worth of blog posts from Ann Voskamp and her website filed in a row; Evidence of a week too full of fun and family to stay on top of the everyday details that usually capture my attention.

I’ve written before, of my love for Ann Voskamp’s writings and the way they have helped me in the past. I don’t mean to sound redundant, but once again, God navigated me to the right post at the right time and spoke to the holes inside my heart.

How can I fill the holes, the blanks left by a week that felt so much like His Kingdom, right here on earth?

The answer, I found, was simple: Fill the holes with Thanksgiving.

By remembering the moments that made the week great and the goodbyes hard, the holes can be filled with thank yous for God, the orchestrator and giver of each precious gift…

Garrett’s curls

Madeline’s freckled nose and “little mommy” ways

Conner’s boyish laughter

Watching Twilight with my sister

Landon playing in the snow with Aletheia

Mom’s Christmas dinner

Dad, asleep in his chair, while the grandkids romp wild

Tenley learning to say “Coco” the name of our family’s furriest member

Living-room ransacked with toys

Late nights and early mornings

Snow falling peaceful, the feel of “Christmas Morning”

This is how my list began, how I started to fill in the blanks. As tears of remembrance slid down my cheeks, the family shaped holes in my heart were filled with thanksgiving; Thanksgiving for God’s goodness and the comfort of His love.